The Best Canadian Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen

The House By the Lake (1976)

A dentist brings a model to his country retreat for a weekend of sex and sunshine, but his sleazy plans are interrupted by an even more immoral foursome. The quartet begin with minor harassment, but escalate to home invasion after being embarrassed by the woman’s driving skills.

This entry may strike some as more of a thriller than a horror film, but while it fits into the rape/revenge subgenre, it’s more interested in the tension and dread of what’s to come than in the sexual assault. (Fair warning, it’s not graphic but still occurs.) The men arrive at the house and begin their games that range from bullying and vandalism to physical attacks. We know it’s building to a line that shouldn’t be crossed, but it teases that suspense out with incremental and inevitable increases in terror.

Brenda Vaccaro is the unlikely lead here, and she does strong work as a competent and confident woman forced to step up her game even further if she wants to live. Her weekend’s something of a double whammy of awful men as, in addition to the terrible trio, she discovers the dentist is a real sleazebag. It’s no spoiler to say she gets the last laugh though. Vaccaro shares the spotlight with character actor Don Stroud who, while no stranger to playing bad guys, gets to shine here as the lead villain. He’s creepily aggressive and frightening in his wild-eyed unpredictability.

The House By the Lake is not currently available.

The Interior (2015)

James is in a bit of a rut, and it’s affecting both his home life and time at work. Bad news from his doctor convinces him it’s time for a change, so he heads into the woods for peace, quiet, and solitude. He’s not quite alone, though, as unnatural sounds echo through the night, someone or something stands menacingly outside his tent, and he quickly descends into a nightmare of pitch-black paranoia.

If you do give this one a spin, you should know that its first act is far from indicative of what’s to come. The film opens as a slacker comedy of sorts as he tries to fill his days with unmemorable activities, but once he decides to head deep into the forest, the mild wackiness is tempered and replaced with genuine fear. It’s a one-man show from that point forward, and we feel his isolation and terror growing with each passing minute. The smallest noises become ominous threats, and the only things more terrifying than the glimpses of movement and shadow are the things we can’t see at all.

Camping is already terrifying – you’re stuck in a tent where you’re both visible to predators and easy pickings for them! – but movies like this one and Backcountry up the fright factor considerably. The film features the scariest tent-based scenes this side of Willow Creek, and it only gets more unsettling when James heads into the dark with only a flashlight to illuminate his surroundings. If there’s a film that makes better use of the pitch black darkness, then I’ve never seen it.

Watch The Interior on Amazon Prime.

She Who Must Burn (2015)

Angela works at a rural clinic for women – think Planned Parenthood – doing what she believes to be right, but when the state shuts her down, she refuses to close her doors and leave. Some in the community appreciate her dedication, but others, including a fundamentalist evangelist and his flock, feel decidedly different.

This is both the most realistic film on the list and the most terrifying (for that very reason). Angela faces pressure and threats experienced by thousands of very real doctors and employees across our country today, and as we know from real life those pressures sometimes lead to tragedy. I won’t spoil if it does so here, but the journey is undeniably harrowing as the religious fanatics make their presence known through ignorance and intimidation – a potentially deadly combination – while she stands up for the women in her care and the principle of it all.

Cults are frightening as they’re home to mob mentality by default, and fanatical believers (no matter the faith) fit the description. The dangers of right-wing fundamentalists are very real, and the film drives that home by walking a fine line between straight drama and tense tale of terror. The ending won’t be to everyone’s tastes as it pushes some very uncomfortable buttons, but some buttons need to be pushed no matter how unappealing the outcome.

Buy She Who Must Burn on DVD from Amazon.

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